At the end of last season, Logan girls basketball guard Amber Kartchner saw a flood of accolades come in — All-State, Region 12 MVP and All-Valley MVP.
That season — Kartchner’s freshman year — the Grizzlies ran the table in Region 12, winning by an average of 10.8 points in those league contests with just one game being decided by less than two possessions.
Entering the 2018-19 season, the young, 5-foot-9 now sophomore had tougher challenges to face. Her freshman season had been relatively easy, with three players on the Grizzlies — including Kartchner — tallying 10-plus points per outing. One of those three, forward Tori Craner, graduated at the end of the year, placing more of the scoring burden on Kartchner.
The rest of Region 12 got better with very few key players leaving. Green Canyon and Ridgeline went from middling teams to state powerhouses. Though, it should be noted, Kartchner wasn’t caught off guard by that development at all.
“I just knew exactly what was going to be happening coming in,” Kartchner said. “I knew that Ridgeline and Green Canyon were going to be pretty much the same teams, and they were strong (in 2017-18), so I knew that we were going to need a little bit more to beat them this year.”
Logan’s star guard did more than just “a little bit more.” She pumped out 21.0 points per game, grabbed 5.3 rebounds, dished out 2.5 assists, come up with 2.9 steals and blocked 1.0 shots per game. Kartchner’s scoring average was good for fifth state-wide and tops in 4A. The only thing as spectacular as her scoring was how utterly efficient Kartchner proved to be in her top-notch scoring.
On high-volume attempts that come with being a volume scorer, Kartchner managed to shoot 54.2 percent overall and an absolutely blazing 47.3 percent from downtown. No other girl in the entire state came close to matching Kartchner’s efficiency on the same volume. The closest two were Kinlee Toomer of Emery and Joslyn Bundy of Dixie, but Kartchner made more 3-pointers on the season (53) than those two players had combined (50).
Once again Kartchner has been tabbed The Herald Journal All-Valley Player of the Year.
The Grizzlies often needed every bit of Kartchner’s dominating play on both ends of the court. As head coach Josh Zentner said, “we leaned on her hard. She did what she had to do.”
Logan clearly missed Craner’s scoring. While Mia Marin, the other returning double-digit scorer from 2017-18, managed to increase her stellar 3-point shooting, she also saw a drop off in her scoring average from 11.4 to 9.2. That placed even more of a load on the shoulders of the sophomore sensation. But Kartchner relished the opportunity.
“It was challenging, but it was fun,” Kartchner said. “If it wasn’t challenging, I wouldn’t have gotten better.”
“She wants to take on the load, and she can,” Zentner said. “And she had games where (the other team) couldn’t stop her.”
Those unstoppable performances included seven outings with 25 or more points and two 30-point games. One of those games was a 27-point performance in a near-upset of Green Canyon. Kartchner scored 16 fourth-quarter points to rally the Grizzlies from down 14 midway through the third quarter and nearly forced overtime, falling just short 59-58.
These performances were common during Kartchner’s entire season, going from dominant performance to dominant performance. While she had her fair share of great showings as a freshman —four games scoring 24-plus — her consistency as a sophomore stuck out to Zentner.
“Last year she had good games, but she had ups and downs in a game, where now it’s just a constant upper level that she’s been able to play,” Zentner said.
As to what accounted for the jump in consistency, Zentner mostly talked about the fact Kartchner simply grew up physically and mentally.
“Her physically now compared to two years ago or a year ago, it’s totally different,” Zentner said. “She wanted to be the best (last year), but physically she just wasn’t capable of being as good as she wanted to at that high level. She was good, she was obviously good. But to be at the level that she wanted, that’s the maturation part.”
Kartchner said this past season helped to refine her skills as a playmaker after a quality, but unpolished freshman season.
“When I was a freshman, I was kind of a little unpolished and I was just trying to find myself,” Kartchner said. “And this year I just knew what I wanted to do and went out and did it.”
Among the more scarier parts of Kartchner’s game is since she still has two years left, the prospect of her getting better may very well haunt every waking moment for opposing coaches.
“She might have it for four years,” Zentner said light-heartedly.
On the note of having already become so highly decorated with All-State, All-Region and All-Valley honors flooding her trophy case when Kartchner is barely old enough to drive a car, motivation to get better and not peak in high school becomes a factor. But for Kartchner, her fear of doing just that is part of her motivation.
“When I hear people say those kinds of things like ‘she’s a really good player’ and all that kind of stuff. I don’t want to be the girl that falls off,” she said.
Making sure she is ready for college ball is also important to Kartchner, who already has four offers from Utah State, BYU, Utah Valley and recently, Northern Arizona.
Finding things to work on at this stage can be a challenge. Kartchner said that between her freshman and sophomore year she became a better defender, more consistent shooter and developed a better understanding for the game. And throughout this summer she will work with her club team and with Zentner on ways for her to improve.
“She has ability that might be higher than the rest of the group and I know that,” Zentner said. “And her and I together choose parts of the game that she wants to be better at.”
Rarely is there such a talent in Cache Valley. Her reign is only halfway through its course. Two more seasons may turn Kartchner from a freshman and sophomore sensation into a legend.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
BETHANY DOW, SR., PRESTONDominant players like Dow are hard to come by, so imagine the relief of Preston head coach Kimber Hall when such a caliber of player moved from Madison to Preston. As a senior, the 6-2 center played the role of dominant rim protector on defense and elite post scorer on offense.
“She just changed the game for us,” Hall said. “People were afraid to come inside because they knew she was there waiting for them. She loved blocking shots and scoring around the basket.”
Dow scored 17.7 points and blocked 3.8 shots per game. Her 95 overall rejections were almost as many as the rest of the All-Valley team combined.
“She was fun to coach, and she’s got so much upswing,” Hall said. “Had we not had her, I don’t know where we would have been without her because she was such a force in the middle.”
EMMA ANDERSON, JR., RIDGELINEA true bruiser in the paint, Anderson led all of 4A in total rebounds (293) along with being one of just three players statewide to record more than 120 offensive rebounds — the only one in 4A. She was also the only valley player to average a double-double with 10.4 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. She had 12 such games throughout the course of the season.
“This season (Anderson) was absolutely amazing as a rebounder,” Ridgeline head coach Ainsli Jenks said. “She has such an instinctual talent for understanding where the ball is going to be, but often, she just wants the ball more than any other player on the floor. Emma provided us with a physical inside presence on offense and defense.”
As a scorer, Anderson found her niche underneath the basket, putting back many of her endless offensive boards, cleaning up any misses her teams sent off the iron.
“Emma is so strong, when she’s fighting for position, tearing down rebounds, and attacking the rim,” Jenks said. “I like to say she’s in ‘Beast-mode.’”
HALEY ANDERSON, SO., RIDGELINE
Haley Anderson provided one half of a solid shooting backcourt for Ridgeline, providing a perimeter threat to balance out a Riverhawks’ attack that had multiple girls capable of scoring in droves inside the paint. She led the team in 3-pointers made (55) and 3-point percentage (37.2 percent).
And as Jenks attested, Anderson was one of the better defensive players on one of the better defensive teams in 4A.
“Haley is a player that can wreak havoc on both ends of the court in a hurry,” Jenks said. “She’s fast and can shoot lights out when she gets going; she led our team in made 3-pointers. Defensively, she led the team in steals and did a great job of putting pressure on opposing ball-handlers.”
Anderson did all of these things as just a sophomore, which has Jenks excited for the next two years, especially given the maturity of the young guard.
“As a sophomore she played more maturely than her age might suggest,” Jenks said. “Haley is another player that works tirelessly both in season and out of season. Her outside shot is so pure that it’s a thing of beauty and an indication of the hard work that she’s put into developing that skill.”
KENNEDY ESKELSON, JR., GREEN CANYON
There isn’t really anything Eskelson didn’t do for the Region 12 runner-up Wolves. She scored the ball (13.0 points per game), rebounded (4.1), distributed the ball (2.3 assists) and played great defense.
“(Eskelson) is a phenomenal point guard who does an incredible job at getting her teammates the ball and handles ball pressure well,” GC head coach Alexis Bird said. “She has the ability to drive the lane, shoot the jumper and was extremely disciplined on defense to stay out of foul trouble.”
Eskelson displayed the consistency in her scoring touch with a streak of 10 consecutive games with double-digit points during the season while also reaching the 10-point mark in 13 of her team’s final 15 games of the season, including the playoffs where she led the Wolves in scoring.
TAYLOR HINDS, JR., GREEN CANYON
Hinds made headlines mainly for leading the Wolves in scoring over the course of the season at 13.4 points per game with notable performances against Farmington (22 points), Preston (25) and Ridgeline (29). Hinds’ versatile defense was arguably her most important contribution to the team.
“Taylor has been a valuable asset to our team,” Bird said. “She is one of the hardest workers I have ever coached and is willing to do anything for the success of the team. She provided a great scoring threat for us down low this season but is athletic and fast enough to guard anyone in the region. She is always that girl who is smiling and encouraging her teammates and always leads by example.”
Hinds also proved to be highly efficient in her scoring, posting a solid 46.1 percent shooting percentage while also turning the ball over just 1.6 times per game, the lowest turnover rate among the All-Valley team.
HALLE LIVINGSTON, SR., RIDGELINE
Arguably the most versatile player in the valley, Livingston was a walking mismatch for opponents. She routinely made defenders regret lacing up on game night.
Livingston boasted the frame of many high school bigs with the athleticism and quickness most guards would envy. Jenks called her “one of the best all-around female athletes I’ve ever been around.” These tools allowed her to lead the 4A runner-up Riverhawks in scoring (15.8) while also being second on the team in rebounds (5.3), assists (3.5) and steals (2.1).
“As our leader and only senior, Halle shined this past season,” Jenks said. “She played her best games in our biggest moments this season. When your leader works as hard as Halle does, it sets a tone for the entire team. She showed up every single day ready to work; no complaints, no excuses.”
In the playoffs, Livingston stepped up her versatility, averaging 14.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists. She also notched a pair of double-doubles, including a 13-point, 10-rebound, seven-assist game in the semifinals against Uintah.
KRISTEN SCHUMAN, SR., SKY VIEW
A leader on and off the court, the senior post helped carry the Bobcats into the playoffs.
Schuman averaged 15.7 points per game, seven more than her closest teammate, while also leading the team in rebounds (7.3), blocks (1.4) and being second in steals (1.3).
“She was just so dependable for us this year,” SV head coach Vanessa Hall said. “In every game she was giving it her all, she was always there. We could count on Kristen to step up for rebounds, step up for points. She was just consistent for us all year.”
Schuman was one of seven seniors on Sky View, but her leadership kept the scrappy team in games, staying competitive in a very tough region that included the state runner-up.
“She’s just a great leader on and off the court,” Hall said. “She’s also very smart on and off the court. In the classroom and on the court, she’s just a student of the game and always looks for opportunities to improve.”
KINLEY FALSLEV, JR., GREEN CANYONOne of the best shooters in the valley, Falslev made 40.4 percent of her shots from downtown. Her signature moment of the season came against Ridgeline where the junior made 10 of 15 3-point attempts, including five triples in the first quarter alone, en route to a career-high 32-point performance.
“Kinley can flat out score,” Bird said. “She is an incredible shooter, a hard worker and is constantly working on her game. Her shooting range is insanely deep which spreads out defenses and can wreak havoc for opposing teams.”
Though just the third leading scorer on her team, the high-volume and high-efficiency shooting from Falslev, a Utah State commit, created openings and scoring opportunities for her teammates to get points for the team.
KAJSA FULLER, SO., WEST SIDE
Though the Pirates struggled through a tough season, Fuller found a way to display her great post game despite the team’s struggles. The sophomore led the team in scoring and was head coach Bob Sorenson’s most reliable scorer.
“When we got her the ball, it had a good chance of going in,” Sorenson said. “She’s got a nice 10-foot shot, just good touch on it.”
Fuller averaged 9.9 points per contest on a solid 42 percent shooting mark from the field while also grabbing 6.2 boards per game.
“She’s a smart, coachable young lady” Sorenson said. “She’s just a joy to work with.”
TEAGAN HALL, FR., MOUNTAIN CREST
The Mustangs’ season saw few bright spots outside of the team’s 5-1 start. Hall was one of those bright spots. The guard led the team in scoring (10.3), rebounds (5.3), assists (3.1) and steals (3.1). Hall was the only valley player to average at least 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals per game.
She played a huge role,” MC head coach Megan Smith said. “She really would help change the momentum of games when we needed her to. Sometimes it wasn’t enough, but you can’t just have one person.”
Hall also played a leadership role on her team despite being just a freshman and is the only valley freshman to make an All-Valley team.
“I think it’s difficult for any freshman to come in and try and be a leader on the team,” Smith said. “But she did a great job at playing that role as one of our leaders.”
BRAYLI JENKS, JR., RIDGELINE
Coach Jenks referred to Brayli as a “throwback” to days gone by as a “true point guard through and through” playing in an era of position-less basketball. Brayli led not just the valley in assists with her 4.1 per game, but also all of 4A. Her 107 total assists ranked sixth statewide.
“She loves to facilitate, remembers every offense and defense, is a great ball-handler, can score the ball and controls the tempo of a game,” coach Jenks said. “She led 4A in assists this season and consistently found teammates in positions to be successful offensively.”
Brayli emerged as a scorer during Ridgeline’s Region 12 championship run, going from scoring 7.5 points per game to 10.9 in region play and the postseason. She finished the season second on the team in 3-pointers with 53, making downtown shots at a solid 36.6 percent clip. Coach Jenks said Brayli’s development into more of a scorer was “critical in moments and games when we struggled to score or needed a big basket to swing the momentum.”
MIA MARIN, SR., LOGAN
The defining feature of Marin is her shooting ability. In 2018-19, she made 40 triples at a borderline elite 35 percent shooting clip.
“(Marin) was a great shooter,” Zentner said. “All her years she was one of the best scorers in the league, but her shooting was key.”
Her consistency in shooting made her the second-leading scorer on the team at 9.2 points. She also recorded 2.0 steals per game as a solid defender.
ALYSSA WOOD, SR., PRESTON
Wood proved to be arguably the best floor general in Cache Valley. She had the second-most assists of any player selected with 3.8 in her first year as a starting point guard. Hall was particularly impressed with how much Wood improved as a player between seasons.
“She probably improved more than any other player that I’ve coached,” Hall said. “She just did a very good job with taking care of our basketball team, running the offense.”
Hall noted Wood’s improvement as a passer and defender, but her shooting made the senior a deadly threat out on the court in any situation. Among All-Valley selections, only Kartchner had a better 3-point percentage than Wood’s 43.9 percent mark. Her shooting was so good that Hall regrets not utilizing it more.
“We should have got her more 3-pointers than what she made,” Hall said. “We should have ran some plays for her. But when she had the opportunity to make some threes, she usually did.”